Review Summary: Aside from a few catchy club tracks, there is nothing all that exciting about Lovato's new album.
Lovato’s oversexualized new album, "Tell Me You Love Me", all breathy come-ons and strategically placed mainstream radio trends, is a relic from that era, which pop historians will probably someday note began in 2013 with Miley Cyrus
doing a kind of wannabe lingerie to her past hit "We Can't Stop" at VMAs and reached its pseudo-pornographic pinnacle in same season with Cyrus' creation, "Bangerz". That she’s so late to this titillating popularity is devastating for Lovato, who, like Lady Gaga
, is more pulse taker than artist. Lovato’s mature record - 2015’s Confident -
brought a real, pulp demonstraion of discipline and smart production to the empty, upscale electronic pop scene of this decade.
"Tell Me You Love Me", sadly, is an outdated product of the turn-of-the-streaming pop scene, in which female singers conflated minimal urban influence with strong self-empowerment. It’s a sexuality that alternates with sentimentality and nothing more; on "Tell Me You Love Me", Lovato goes from "Heart Attack" to "Sorry Not Sorry", which leaves little to the imagination and lacks any nuance. It’s an unwinning wistfulness made worse by the album’s gauzy production - all well-worn samples and harpsichords and chimes - by longtime collaborators Ben Abraham and Sarah Aarons.
Musically, "Tell Me You Love Me" continues Lovato's use of a variety of genres and vocal styles. The album opens with the carefully strummed "Sorry Not Sorry," whose urban melodies and chilly beats feels like reliving a particularly emotional event, or a moving scene from a typical Disney sitcom. Snapping, uptempo "Daddy Issues", with an irresistible hook suits fit for a nice, lighthearted time on the back porch. "Only Forever" the record's loudest, fullest, most emotional track, keeps the electric atmosphere up front and features playful '80s-type back-up vocals.
Lovato would like "Tell Me You Love Me" to stand as an example of a bold embrace of self-motivation (she even implied as much about her past additions recently). But unlike with real mental troubles - Kesha
, in particular - Lovato's take on passion is regressive, not progressive. Like Katy Perry
, Demi Lovato clings to Selena Gomez
of the fifties. On Lovato's "Sexy Dirty Love", sex was a refuge, a place where outsiders could go to be free. For the urban-inspired album, "Tell Me You Love Me" sure plays it safe.